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William Akins

Academic administrator and educator during integration, William Charles Akins was born in 1932 in Austin, Texas. He attended segregated Blackshear Elementary School. He next went to Kealing Junior High School and then Anderson High School where he met W.B. Campbell who inspired him to become a principal. He graduated from Huston-Tillotson University with his B.A. degree in history in 1954 and received his M.A. degree from Prairie View A&M University in 1956. Akins also received his administrative certification from Southwest Texas State University.

In 1959, Akins began teaching at Anderson High School, his alma mater, also known as Old Anderson. Three years after beginning, he was recognized as Anderson’s Teacher of the Year. In 1964, Akins was selected to be the first African American teacher at Johnson High School, a recently desegregated school. In 1971, he returned to Anderson High School to serve as Assistant Principal where he served until it was closed due to busing desegregation laws. He was then transferred to Lanier High School before becoming the first principal of the new L.C. Anderson High School in 1973. Akins worked through conflicts to set the school on its feet. After leaving L.C. Anderson High School he assumed several central administration roles for the Austin Independent School District including Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs and Associate Superintendent for Development and Community Partnerships.

Akins received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Huston-Tillotson University in 1982. For his commitment to the Austin school district, in 1998, the district Board of Trustees voted to name Austin’s newest high school after Akins. The following year the groundbreaking ceremony for the W. Charles Akins High School was held and the school opened to more than 2,700 students.

Akins passed away on March 29, 2017 at age 84.

Accession Number

A2010.025

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/13/2010

Last Name

Akins

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Charles

Schools

Huston-Tillotson University

Theodore Kealing Junior High School

Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy

L.C. Anderson High School

Prairie View A&M University

Texas State University

First Name

William

Birth City, State, Country

Austin

HM ID

AKI01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

California, Washington, D.C.

Favorite Quote

It Is Always Good.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/9/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Austin

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Stew, Chocolate

Death Date

3/29/2017

Short Description

Academic administrator William Akins (1932 - 2017 ) was the founding principal of the integrated L.C. Anderson High School, and an administrator in the Austin Independent School District. In 2000, Akins High School was named in his honor.

Employment

Booker T. Washington High School

L.C. Anderson High School

Albert Sidney Johnston High School

Sidney Lanier High School

Austin Independent School District

KLRN-TV

Favorite Color

Brown, Gold

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of William Akins' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - William Akins lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - William Akins describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - William Akins remembers his mother's career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Williams Akins talks about his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Williams Akins describes his maternal relatives' complexions

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - William Akins describes his father's career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Williams Akins talks about his parents' religious activities

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - William Akins remembers his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - William Akins describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - William Akins describes the sights, sounds and smells of their childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - William Akins talks about his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - William Akins describes his community in East Austin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - William Akins remembers his neighbors' occupations

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - William Akins describes his experiences during the Great Depression

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - William Akins recalls visiting his mother's white employers

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - William Akins remembers Theodore Kealing Junior High School in Austin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - William Akins describes his paternal grandmother's home

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - William Akins talks about his early influences

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - William Akins remembers L.C. Anderson High School in Austin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - William Akins recalls his aspiration to become a school principal

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - William Akins recalls his decision to attend Tillotson College in Austin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - William Akins describes his freshman year at Tillotson College

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - William Akins remembers his professors at Tillotson College in Austin, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - William Akins remembers the establishment of Huston Tillotson College in Austin, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - William Akins recalls meeting his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - William Akins describes his experiences on segregated trains

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - William Akins recalls his graduation from Huston Tillotson College

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - William Akins remembers his search for a teaching position

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - William Akins describes how he joined the faculty of Booker T. Washington High School in Marlin, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - William Akins describes his graduate education

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - William Akins recalls the mentorship of Hobart L. Gaines

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - William Akins remembers integrating the faculty of Albert Sidney Johnston High School in Austin, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - William Akins talks about his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - William Akins remembers President Lyndon Baines Johnson

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - William Akins remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - William Akins remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - William Akins talks about the closure of L.C. Anderson High School in Austin, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - William Akins recalls his appointment as the principal of the new L.C. Anderson High School

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - William Akins recalls the struggle to integrate L.C. Anderson High School

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - William Akins describes the violence between students at L.C. Anderson High School

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - William Akins describes his accomplishments as the principal of L.C. Anderson High School

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - William Akins describes his role at the Austin Integrated School District

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - William Akins talks about his honorary doctorate from Huston Tillotson University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - William Akins describes his community service

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - William Akins remembers the founding of Akins High School in Austin, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - William Akins reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - William Akins talks about his experiences as a high school football official

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - William Akins reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - William Akins talks about his family

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - William Akins shares a message to future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - William Akins narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

8$5

DATitle
William Akins remembers L.C. Anderson High School in Austin, Texas
William Akins recalls the struggle to integrate L.C. Anderson High School
Transcript
So you go on to high school?$$Yes.$$And which high school?$$Anderson High School [L.C. Anderson High School, Austin, Texas].$$Is this the Old Anderson?$$Old Anderson, located on Pennsylvania Avenue. That's the high school. As a matter of fact, Kealing [Theodore Kealing Junior High School; Theodore Kealing Middle School, Austin, Texas] was right--a block from Anderson then. The new Kealing is still located in the same place. I was in the school district as one of the administrators when we rebuilt Kealing, and we put it back where it was. But the old Anderson building burned down, and there was a new Anderson building after I graduated, and it was built at 900 Thompson [Street]. And I don't want to get a little ahead of myself, but I became a teacher there at the new--at that time, the new Anderson High School. But going back to the old Anderson High School, I was in the band and we had great bands and we had strong teachers. Let me tell you about one particular teacher that had followed me, I'll say that (laughter). Mrs. L.E. Frazier [Lucille Frazier], outstanding English teacher, we were all afraid of her. She was small in stature, but good nonetheless. A strong disciplinarian, no question about it. She was at Blackshear [Blackshear Elementary School; Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy, Austin, Texas] when I was there, and I'll say, mean, mean (laughter). And lo and behold, when I got to Anderson, there she was again (laughter). A good teacher, though. We had to really write well and try to speak well and, you know, do your assignments. She, along with Mr. Timmons [Raymond Timmons], who was a geometry teacher--which I was pretty good in geometry, wasn't very good in math--and Mr. Isaac Chapman [ph.], and some of those. Mr. W.E. Pigford was the coach, the football coach when I was high school. I couldn't play football, but I loved it. I played it every opportunity I could get, sandlot. But he was a fine gentleman. He became principal later on, but he, while I was in high school he was coach. Mr. W.B. Campbell was our principal, who we admired dearly. He had been in World War I [WWI], and he was a captain in World War I. And, you know, reading all the stories, we couldn't imagine an African American being a captain in World War I, but he was. And big stately man, a great disciplinarian. He, too, had gone to the University of Michigan [Ann Arbor, Michigan] to get his master's [degree]. And so, we admired Mr. Campbell. Walking down the hall, "Boy, get in the class." Miss Frazier and all those teachers were just--and then we had a science teacher that we loved dearly, and I want us to talk about him. (Laughter) His name was M.L. Pickard. Mr. Pickard was so enthusiastic about his work; he had humor all the time. I recall when he would write a formula in chemistry on the chalkboard, and he would not erase it with the eraser. He'd be so enthusiastic to go to the next point, he would like wave it with his sleeve and just keep on going. And we didn't think anything of it right then. But later on we said, "Hey, Mr. Pickard--." But we loved him because he had a little humor, he was an excellent teacher, and he made us good students. "Do your work." He didn't have to be the firm disciplinarian. Because of his subject matter, you became disciplined and you handled yourself and now--some teachers have this innate ability to make you feel good, and you like to go to class. He was such a teacher, M.L. Pickard. Anyway, I remember Mr. Pickard. All of them were good. Mr. C.P. Johnson was the social studies teacher that I admired and I wanted to be like. The first time I'd ever heard that there was a Morehouse College [Atlanta, Georgia] was in his class. I didn't know, I wasn't well read. I'd read newspapers and read our assignments, but I didn't know about Morehouse. I mean, in Austin [Texas], read the newspapers. He was a Morehouse man. He talked about it and got us all inspired about Morehouse. And then I began to think in terms of college, going to a university or going to a college when you get out of school. And they gave us kind of a thirst I think for learning. "Elevate your horizons. Be somebody. Go to school." And that's what I kind of I wanted to--I wanted to do that. When he said Anderson was a good school, I always thought it was a good school then. And even after I got out of there and came back to teach there, it still was a good school. And so, many of our students were inspired to move onward and upward, and to do your very best so you can become a professional and really be a credit, not only to your parents, to your family and to your community. So, I wanted to do that.$I want you to talk more about being a principal, an African American principal, in a school that has a majority of white children.$$Um-hm.$$What were some of the things that you had to face?$$The initial problem, in my judgment, was trying to get the kids to accept each other. Initially, the first two or three years, we had racial conflicts, pretty extensive fights. I wouldn't call it a war zone, but Austin [Texas] had trouble at all the schools when we initially integrated, before Anderson [L.C. Anderson High School, Austin, Texas] was built. They had tremendous fights at Reagan High School [John H. Reagan High School, Austin, Texas], where the kids were trying to accept each other. They didn't know each other, that's why. And McCallum High School [A.N. McCallum High School, Austin, Texas]--and we had a few at Lanier [Sidney Lanier High School, Austin, Texas] where I was an assistant. Well, at Anderson High School, when it opened, the kids who were brought there didn't go--old Anderson had been closed since '71 [1971]. The new Anderson at 8403 Mesa [Drive] was opened in '73 [1973], so it wasn't too much time in between there. So the youngsters who formerly attended old Anderson, 900 Thompson [Street], who living in the Booker T. Washington projects [Booker T. Washington Terraces, Austin, Texas], they were bussed into northwest Austin each day. That created hostility from the very beginning, because they didn't want to be bussed. First of all, they didn't want the school to be closed, and then they didn't want to be bussed there. Then some of the youngsters who were at--the white youngsters who were there--many of them had been students at McCallum and many of them had been students at Lanier. And I suspect their parents felt like they were probably safe from so much of this movement. But that wasn't so, because these kids were being bussed in every day from the Booker T. Washington units over on Thompson Street. Well, they were not. They were coming from disadvantaged situations, and their backgrounds were not as the backgrounds of those middle-class and upper middle-class youngsters. And so, there was a clash. And so one of the great challenges we had was to get the faculty together with me and the community to see if we couldn't, through our human relations efforts, to bring those kids together so they could know each other and to appreciate each other and respect each other. And that took a while, but I was very fortunate to have a lot of help. We had some parents from East Austin [Austin, Texas], and some of the ministers came in to assist me. And the district [Austin Independent School District] had mandated that we would all have human relations committees, parent committees, student committees, community committees. And all of that together, I think helped us to get through the first two or three years, which we had some difficulty. Okay, then the other thing was--and I think the school district, they were very nice to me, because they allowed me to help select my faculty, and that was really a joy. I was able to bring in some people who I had known and who had respected me, I thought (laughter.) And they did. So, I brought in some of my friends with whom I had taught at other places. For example, I brought in Mr. Charlie Weiser [ph.], who I had known as a fellow teacher down at Johnston [Albert Sidney Johnston High School, Austin, Texas]. The secretary from Johnston, she was nice to me. She came to be my secretary. They sent in another young man that I had not known, but he came in as another assistant principal. And then I was able to get a counselor that I had known. I brought in two counselors that I had known. I brought in some teachers that I had known. I had about seven or eight African American teachers on my faculty with me, with the other hundred or so from the other schools. And so, I had a faculty that was really supportive. Initially some of them were not, of course, and they were not accustomed to having an African American as their supervisor. I understood that, and so we had to work with that. We had to let them know that I wanted to be fair, and I wanted to be objective and open. And I wanted them to respect me, as I was going to sure respect them. And over time, my faculty was very supportive, and I appreciated them. As a matter of fact, I have friends even today that we still communicate and visit. So, that worked out fine finally. Now, some of the parents were a little hesitant, of course; you would imagine that they would be. We had some rather affluent parents in the area, and then we had some that were not so affluent, but who wanted to be, and who wanted to carry themselves as if they were. I could see through some of that. Many of them were critical of my administration, of course. It, it, would be shown in various ways. Discipline--my tendency is to be relatively mild mannered, but I've always been a pretty good disciplinarian. We had, we had school, but the fights occurred. And the building was three stories, and supervision was somewhat difficult, but we tried to man it so that we could be in position to stop the fights before they would occur and to be a deterrent. They wanted to work with the student leaders to get together and--, "Let's have little Coke [Coca-Cola] parties together. Let's talk about our problems during the day, and let's see how we can reach some common ground." And so, finally we did that. Our band program came together, our cheerleaders came together, and our football team came together. And so, we had all the ingredients to have a top school. Why wouldn't we? We had some affluence, a great amount of affluence. We had very bright students, and we had some students who wanted to be in a setting and wanted to improve themselves. And we had some students who did not have strong backgrounds, but they had come to Anderson and they too wanted to deport themselves better. And so, our quest was to get them together. We sought as a theme the pursuit of excellence, from the very beginning. And with the ingredients that's there, we should be the top school in the district. There was no question about it; we should have been, and I think we were. And even today, Anderson is still among the very top schools in the district, because that clientele has not changed appreciatively. We have fewer African American students now than we had then. And I stayed there right at ten years. I would have made my tenth year, but they moved me to central office. But I had some good years. I had some trying times, of course, I wouldn't deny that. But I grew as a person and as an administrator, and even as a teacher. And I worked with the community, and it worked out.